Designing the Evolution

Fashion students’ relationship with waste doesn’t need to begin in the classroom, if only we stop addressing used things as waste, and here's the challenge. Learning methods using sketchbooks and toiles are necessary, simply we can’t cast these things out as garbage. Designers don’t need to design from scratch all the time.

Why do we only see fabric and zippers as materials for new fashion garments? Why aren’t used-clothes seen as “materials” for new garments? There’s plenty of used clothes to source from! On the other hand, we’re lacking fertile land that is needed to grow food and shouldn’t be stressed with cotton growing, we’re lacking healthy air that shouldn’t be polluted with synthetics production. If students can only learn to design with fabric by the metre and buttons on-demand, they will only know that when they get into the industry.

In her book “Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion” Kate Fletcher asks “what role can design play when it is concerned with facilitating relations and interactions across time with things that others designed (often long ago) rather than giving form to new material products”

In a reformed fashion course, students would not work with virgin materials. Students would always source materials from used garments, either cutting them up in new patterns (i.e. dissect a jacket to use each component in a different way) or evolving the design of that same garment (i.e. evolving the jacket aesthetic)

Circular Design Guide talks about “Design for evolution: We used to design 'finished' products. Now, we should think of everything we design like software – products and services that can constantly evolve, based on the data we get through feedback. Design is never done.

So, if software developers don’t need to create new software from zero, fashion designers don’t need it either. But to do this, fashion designers must be experienced in, not only designing FOR evolution, but also in designing THE evolution, thus designing on existing garments.

Before getting to this point, why not start by making students work on toiles of previous years students? What would it be like to create a story from a toile, evolving year after year in different students hands and views?

Many brands nowadays have schemes to collect used clothing from costumers. So they have this resources. But recycling fibres and components is still far from easy. But imagine what they could do with all those resources, if only there were fashion designers prepared to work with them.

Comments (3)

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Ana Ramos
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  • Many thanks for the read, Yasmina! It will be very helpful!, as this is the area of my current research project.

    How can this be improved?
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  • I agree, we have been trialing the use secondhand clothing for toiling here in Shanghai. Although it is of course much more challenging, we have found that students learn double the amount by discovering different forms of workmanship and navigating existing patterns. The obvious intersection we find with this concept is that of digital clothing that can be changed/edited.